I used to be quite the purist when it came to using the full frame of the pictures I made. I believe strongly that the ability to compose an image in the viewfinder is an important and necessary skill, one that forces the photographer to be careful, observant, thoughtful and precise. In most of the work I print(ed) in the wet darkroom, I include the black edge of the negative, both as an aesthetic piece and a declaration that what you see in the final image was what the camera captured when I released the shutter.
Working with digital capture has loosened (freed) me up a bit. I do crop now (not always), mainly because I still prefer the square format to the rectangle, and there is no such thing as an affordable square format digital camera. I am in the process of training my eye to impose an imaginary square in the viewfinder. (Yes, I suppose I could use tape or something, but this is actually working for me.)
So, usually the cropping is minimal: a chunk off either side. But there is one picture I made in Uganda that I really did a number on, and it has (surprisingly) become an important piece in this new body of work. You can see the first simple square crop in a post from December 10, 2007. Once home from the trip, I worked on it some more. The final result, a much more severe crop, injected the piece with the emotion that was/is truly there for me. I guess sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to find what is there. I’m glad I have given myself permission now to do just that.
On a final note, I saw a portrait exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum yesterday. Keith Davis, curator to beat all curators, suggested that a portrait can and usually does reveal “an external truth” AND an “internal truth.” I could not agree more, and in fact, I believe this picture sums that up better than anything I’ve made in a long time.